Make no mistake, manufacturers and dealers want no part of consumers learning to competitively shop for hearing aids. The most difficult to fathom are the retail chains that sell Big Six circuits under different brand names, thereby making it impossible to compare them. An excellent example is Audibel, a branded store-front chain that sells hearing aids manufactured by Starkey. Though the Audibel RICs may be identical to Starkey RICs, there is no way for consumers to discover this without cooperation from Starkey and its Audibel dealers.

These groups are the big players in the “retail model” sector, and many are owned wholly or in-part by the Big Six. They all have branded store fronts in retail locations, typically within a multi-state region. Because it is practically impossible to compare these re-branded RICs to the flagship brand versions, we advise you to stay away from these chains.

They also tend to be very hard-sales driven. You can prove this to yourself by calling up and asking them to give prices on premium or advanced RICs. Nine times out of ten you’re going to get price “double talk” from someone specifically trained not to give exact product or price information over the phone (see Appendix B, “Price Double Talk”). If you give these outfits your name, address or phone number, get ready to have a lot more mail in your mailbox and unwanted phone calls.